Saturday, March 13, 2010

De Profundis

Cedar Springs, Michigan

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Inside the museums infinity goes up on trial.
Voices echo, "This is what salvation must be like after a while."

--Bob Dylan

The thing about eternity, of course, is that it's so damned long. Waking up for another day in the sweet sunshine of heaven, or the wretched darkness of hell. Either way, it's all about the waiting. Will tomorrow be different? How anyone could have devised eternity as a reward for good behavior is beyond me. Sure, being endlessly boiled in oil, eaten by teeth of flame, prodded by pitchforks, sliced and diced, those things do sound more than a bit painful and dreary. But who ever seriously considers the long-term effects of the flip side? Would the warmth of the presence of God be any less tedious after the first million years or so? How much unremitting bliss can anyone really stand? Lucifer got restless.

No, the punishment isn't the pain and torture so much as it is the endlessness of it all. Give us any kind of situation and we can adjust to it after awhile. We are adaptive animals. But tell us it's never going to change and that's downright depressing. In fact, I think a pretty good definition of depression, as it afflicts the human brain, is that it's the feeling that things aren't good, and that they won't get any better. It's Macbeth saying "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow." It's Sisyphus saying "Same boulder, different day." That, and the feeling that things could always get worse. Michael Corleone in his kitchen, pulling his clenched fists to himself with "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Prometheus lying there thinking "Oh Christ, here comes that eagle again."

Notice that they don't really try to sell you heaven so much as to scare you with hell. Why? Because it's fascinating. The paintings of Hieronymous Bosch, the thundering sermons of Jonathan Edwards. Dante's Inferno is a lot more interesting and compelling than his heaven. Only scholars read the Paradiso. Most of us can't relate, but more importantly, to embrace it is to come face to face with its sheer cleanliness and tedium. They must really appreciate the occasional newcomer up there. Notice that all the jokes about heaven involve St. Peter and the entry process, your last chance to really be yourself before embarking on that endless acid trip and becoming one with the divine.

Where is all this coming from?

Readers don't generally want this aimless introspective shit. They follow the blog because I'm doing something they're not doing--walking through the country. I offer something a bit different in the midst of what they perceive as the comparative sameness of their lives. Maybe they've wondered what it would be like to do it themselves, in some form or other. For some it's like a slower version of reality television. Can he do it? Will something terrible happen? For others it may be a reflection of their fantasies. For still others an attenuated travelogue. But the important and universal thing is that they're not doing it--someone else is. This I understand perfectly. Who wants to read about his own life, after all, when he's living it in such excruciating detail?

It is understood that right now I am on hiatus, like a television program. People accept this, and turn to other channels. They just wait. It's all about the walk. I thought I might get some more responses to the riddle of the Refuseniks, which I regard as an interesting walk-related phenomenon. But so far the few women I've heard from simply aver that they don't do it. I wish to emphasize that I do not consider it a right versus wrong thing, just a difference I can't explain. It's not like men who don't put down the toilet seat. That's purely a matter of selfishness and/or bad breeding. This is something else.

I ask for nothing from readers, however. Our unwritten contract requires that I begin walking, which I expect to do next Wednesday or Thursday. Until then, enjoy the reruns.


Billie Bob said...

As my dad would say (god rest his soul), "Women drivers..." There, does that spark any controversy?

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of food for controversy if you Google Gender Differences in Driving, plus a cute video on gender differences in showering on You Tube. No one is left unscathed... Sorry, I couldn't resist!

Anonymous said...

Well you've sure got a lotta of gall
to be so useless and all...

Just kidding, it's nice that you had a chance to take a well deserved break.

I personally never understood the toilet seat thing. I think a user of the toilet ought to take full responsibility for placing it into whatever configuration their needs require - it seems a little arrogant and self-centered to expect the previous user to have set it up for you in advance. When you are about to fly an airplane you take nothing for granted and do a thorough preflight inspection. Assume nothing, verify everything. If you happen to fall in 'cause you took for granted that the seat would be down, maybe you should have turned the light on when you entered the room!

Ted Agar (Disaffected)

Peter Teeuwissen said...

It's not a question of responsibility; it's a question of etiquette.

Ted said...

I generally conform to the social rules when I can see that they are clearly for the common good - this particular habit never struck me that way. It can actually cause unnecessary and non-productive reconfigurations to occur, depending on the arrival sequence of the users. Not a big deal one way or the other, just a small curiosity. The viewpoint of an engineer type, you could say.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Etiquette is not essentially utilitarian. It purports to represent something other, and some would say higher, than merely the "common good." For instance, eating with silverware does not promote the common good, nor does refraining from picking one's nose in public, or opening a door for someone else. Etiquette is an expression of society's more refined ideals of public behavior, characterized by unselfishness and decorum beyond the minimum requirements. There are engineers who have no difficulty understanding this.

ted said...

As fortune would have it, we less refined persons are able to see a utilitarian benefit in most of the common rules of etiquette in spite of the fact that higher thought processes consistently evade us. Even though our motivations would be judged by some to be less noble, happily the end result remains pretty much the same. I choose to eat with silverware, for example, because it's much cleaner than eating with fingers and also is far less likely to gross out the persons that I'm sharing the table with. Sadly, there's no hope for me on the toilet issue however.

Anonymous said...

Ted, What if I told you that Feng Shui calls for putting down the toilet seat and the lid in order to avoid having your money going down the drain ? Would that be an encouragement to try and change habits ?

Randy said...

For another perspective, a guy I know thinks us men are acting selfishly by standing to pee. He believes we should all sit to go #1. This comes primarily from concern about the splash. I gave this some thought; but since I have never heard any complaints about this (specifically or generally) I have stayed with the standing position that my mother taught me. I doubt sitting will ever become common among men, but if it does then the toilet seat up issue may go away, although I think all genders sit some of the time. I like S's thoughts on money, but worry more about my iphone than some change: coins would survive the dip, electronics would not.
Hi Ted. Haven't seen you in 40 some years. And now we meet on the internets. Cool.

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Now we're talking about two separate, if related, issues--splash, on the one hand (well, one hopes not on the hand) and placement of the seat after all is said and done, on the other. Since we're this far down the yellow road, it should be pointed out that men are not the only ones who splash. So sitting down won't completely eliminate the splash. My preference is for all persons to clean up after themselves as necessary, and to put both the seat and the lid down after each use, so that the gaping receptacle does not draw too much attention to itself. Miss Manners has spoken for the last time on this issue. Stubborn utilitarianists may do as they please.